The Secret Life of Bees

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The Secret Life of Bees Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The epigraph from the bee book discusses how the best way to find a queen is to find its “circle of attendants.”
If Lily and Rosaleen are the “bees,” then this epigraph suggests that they’re going to meet some new characters.
Themes
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Ceremony and Ritual Theme Icon
Lily gains new respect for nature after she bathes in the stream with Rosaleen. She imagines that Mother Nature looks like Eleanor Roosevelt, and the next morning, she tells herself that today is the first day of a new life. Because Rosaleen is still sleeping, Lily passes the time by imagining a reason why Deborah owned a picture of a black Virgin Mary. Lily remembers that only Catholics carry pictures of Mary. There are no Catholics living in Sylvan, and in fact, the people of Sylvan regard Catholics as dangerous and destined to burn in Hell.
Rosaleen and Lily’s bathing session was a kind of baptism after all, and now they’re ready to start a new phase of their lives. Kidd establishes the religious tension between Protestants and Catholics in the South at the time. Notably, the positive characters in the novel (like Rosaleen) don’t practice this kind of religious rigidity and intolerance; i.e., instead of dismissing other religions, they create their own amalgam of religion and culture.
Themes
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Religion, Guilt, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Ceremony and Ritual Theme Icon
Rosaleen wakes up, and murmurs that she dreamed about Martin Luther King, Jr. The two of them set off for Tiburon, walking past barns and cows. They’re both extremely hungry, and their stomachs growl. Lily realizes that it’s Sunday, meaning that all the stores in Tiburon will be closed. Rosaleen notes darkly that she’ll be turned away from every motel or hotel in town, since she’s black.
One reason that Lily is the one providing the initiative in this quest is that it’s easier for her to be optimistic about what she’s going to experience. Rosaleen can’t share Lily’s hopefulness because she knows she’s just as likely to encounter racism and oppression in Tiburon as she was in Sylvan.
Themes
Race, America, and the 1960s Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Rosaleen and Lily arrive at a general store, which is open, even though it’s Sunday. While Rosaleen waits outside, Lily orders two Sunday-plate specials of barbecue pork. The storeowner asks Lily where she’s headed, and Lily lies, saying she’s there to visit her grandmother. When the storeowner asks Lily if her grandmother’s name is Rose Campbell, Lily impulsively nods. Suddenly, she notices a jar of honey bearing a picture of a black Virgin Mary—the same picture she’s carrying with her! The storeowner explains that the seller of the honey jars is a black woman named August Boatwright, who lives in a house on Main Street. Outside, Lily tells Rosaleen that they have to go to August’s house. Rosaleen is skeptical—it’s possible that Deborah never met August, she says—but she agrees to walk to the house, anyway.
We’ve already seen that Lily is a talented, quick-thinking liar, and Kidd reminds us of this here. But the most important aspect of this section is the big, improbable coincidence that Lily immediately finds the honey jars with the same picture of the black Virgin Mary. It’s because of this coincidence that Lily and Rosaleen are able to meet August Boatwright, who’ll be an important character for the rest of the novel. Once again, Kidd suggests that there’s a divine providence guiding Lily on her quest, pointing her in the right direction when she has no idea how to proceed. This also makes the plot flow more smoothly and simply.
Themes
Race, America, and the 1960s Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Ceremony and Ritual Theme Icon
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Rosaleen and Lily walk toward August’s house. Lily stops at the post office to check if there are any Wanted posters with Rosaleen’s face, or stories in the newspaper about an escaped black woman. She finds none, and feels grateful.
From here on out, there won’t be any more information about the police’s attempt to track down Rosaleen for escaping from jail (and in fact, Rosaleen will largely recede from view). Kidd now takes the novel in a new direction, as the big “escape” was essentially just a way of getting Lily to August’s house.
Themes
Race, America, and the 1960s Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon